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Town to form working group to address Elk Ave. parking issues

Meters, mall and Elk Avenue shuttle?

By Mark Reaman

In another effort to address parking and traffic issues in town, the Crested Butte Town Council is looking at forming a working group to debate how best to address the issues before this fall. In a 30-minute work session Monday night, the council identified problems with parking, speeding and safety of pedestrians in town.

Chief marshal Mike Reily told the council the summer crowds are putting pressure on town assets. “It is a big, broad issue and perhaps a committee is needed to see where the community wants to go,” he said.

“Speeding is definitely happening more in town. People are using the side streets more and really speeding,” said councilman Paul Merck.

“The parking issues may be broader,” said councilman Chris Ladoulis. “We just put parking in that lot behind Pita’s and got eight spaces. More and more people are putting up signs in front of their houses telling people they can’t park there.”

“Our plan has been good for a while but what about 10, 15 or 20 years from now?” asked mayor Glenn Michel. ”Addressing these issues also take political will. Does the council have the spine to enforce some of these potential solutions?”

“The main issue for me is the crosswalks on Sixth Street,” said councilman Jim Schmidt. “I think we need to put some lighted crosswalks in places like near the grocery store. People are blowing through stop signs everywhere in town but I see it a lot on Sixth.”

“There are definitely some out-of-towners who blow through stop signs assuming it is a four-way stop and that the other person has to stop,” said Reily. “The inconsistency is confusing to some people. The town’s 15 mile-per-hour speed limit helps. Being cautious helps.”

“It seems clear that the council values a pedestrian and bicycle community that is safe,” said Michel.

“On things like enforcing two-hour parking, do we really gain anything or do people come back and move their car a few spots?” asked Schmidt.

“There is definitely a cause and effect with everything we do,” said Reily. “But we need an improved summer product and an improved winter product with parking and traffic. In the old days the town had dirt streets and some intersections with no stop signs at all. Things are different now.”

“We always hear from some people that Elk Avenue should be a mall with no vehicles,” said Schmidt. “But where then do the cars go? We hear that the Butte Avenue bridge should be open, at least to one-way traffic to get some cars off of Elk Avenue. Should we look at something like a tram that runs up and down Elk between the parking lots?”

“We have a robust bus system already,” responded Michel. “Our built environment is best for pedestrians or bikes. There is also the potential to decrease our carbon footprint if we can get people to walk or ride instead of drive.”

A memo from town staff to the council recommended the town needs to investigate possible solutions to the issues. How can the town get more pedestrian and bike use versus driving? Should the town investigate possible paid parking during peak demand? How can the town improve signage and make better use of satellite parking lots?

Reily touted the professionalism of the local bus drivers who deal with congestion but avoid accidents on a daily basis.

Michel said if a working group or citizens’ committee was formed to study the issue, representatives of the bus systems should be included.

Merck said he was recently in Breckenridge and was told by the mayor there that parking meters helped alleviate some traffic issues and kept shopping flow moving. “Have we got to that point to consider that?” he asked.

“That would be a potential recommendation from a committee,” said Michel.

“We have to focus on solutions and not just enforcement,” insisted Schmidt. “People need to be provided options.”

Town community development director Michael Yerman said the town had spent $2.9 million in three years on transportation issues on things like the Pita’s parking lot purchase, some paving and building a new bus stop at Sixth and Elk. He recommended if the council was inclined to have a working group come up with recommendations on traffic and parking issues, the charge be focused. “Otherwise the discussion could go on for years,” he said. “For example, stick to parking. Do not talk about roundabouts or bridges. Be realistic.”

“It makes sense to look at parking on Elk Avenue,” said councilman Roland Mason. “There is always a discussion on whether to close it off, whether to put in parking meters or whether to have parking permits for neighborhoods in town. It is worth looking into and maybe reevaluating parking on the whole of Elk Avenue. The issue is not just in the core business district anymore.”

The council agreed to have town staff set up a working group to discuss the issue. They will seek representatives from the business community and nearby neighborhoods along with transportation experts (bus drivers). The newly hired town planner will be asked to participate, along with council members Chris Ladoulis and Jackson Petito.

If you have an interest in serving on the committee there is more information on the town website. Or touch base with Yerman at town hall.

The council will expand on the idea at the July 24 council meeting.

At the request of council, the town staff will also look into the possibility of using temporary speed bumps on some local streets in the summer.

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